This letter is for you.
We, Michaël and Werner, and the entire team at 3 Fonteinen would like to thank you. Because it is a privilege to be able to continue your beautiful legacy.
Yes, this is an anthology. For you, Armand Debelder. About who you were and still are. About what you did, for us and with us, and how that still resonates with what we do. And about the way you have done it all.
Thank you for being you.
Armand, you were a truly beautiful person. Genuine and sincere. Gentle and good-humoured. A gifted storyteller, charming and charismatic. And always with your heart on your sleeve.
An open, welcoming person. You were there for everyone, young and old. Everyone was so happy to be in your loving company. A true man of the people, as they say. A social animal, someone who would listen and tell stories, laugh and weep with laughter. Who would recount experiences and anecdotes to anyone who wanted to hear them; about your adventures as a young rascal in and around Beersel, as the son of Gaston and Raymonde in and around—and under!—the pub-restaurant; about Herman Teirlinck; about blending in the cellar and the blenders of those days; about brewing for 3 Fonteinen. One tale even juicier than the other. And we all have at least one beautiful or silly story ourselves, of which you are a part.
We will always remember you as a thinker, a brooder at times. With a fair share of gut feeling, sometimes chaotic in thoughts and ideas—albeit an artistic chaos—you would always preserve some doubt and talk a lot with the people you loved. But at the end of the day, you came up with a clear, logical and simple solution. Or as you called it yourself: plain common sense. That is how you combined a pondering mindset with the rather, uh, outspoken steadfast line that you have seen and that we still see very clearly for 3 Fonteinen, and for the lambic and geuze traditions in general.
You were also a bon-vivant. Well deserved, because you have always been a diligent worker too. Your big, firm hands probably remain the best image of that. Work hard first, then enjoy life to the full. It is a formula that we like to hang on to ourselves, day after day.
Thank you for shaping us.
For many of us, you were like a second father. How you dealt with us in a warm and engaging way, so that we could always come to you with our questions and our worries, our stories and our experiences.
But you have also determined our way of thinking and acting. Not only in brewing and blending, but also in the way we welcome people, in the amount of thought that goes into making a decision, the principled finesse with which we develop new projects, the stubbornness that we put into certain long-term choices...
It is not without pride that we acknowledge that people—our friends, our family, visitors and lambic lovers—also see what your influence has been on us, and still is. We see it mainly as a confirmation of what you have taught us.
And often, when we are in doubt again, the answer to this one simple question leads us almost naturally to the solution: “What would Armand do?”
You have left your mark on 3 Fonteinen forever!
Thank you for continuing to inspire us.
Armand, you were, are, and will always be an inspiration to many. Before, now and forever. Nothing happens at 3 Fonteinen without us holding it up to the light of how you have shaped this same brewery and blendery. You drew the lines with a stubbornness that you inherited from the people who inspired you, like your father Gaston and the illustrious Herman Teirlinck.
You once said it so beautifully: “You can be inspired by certain people, by what they say and do. But what you do with that inspiration, and the shape you want to give it, that is up to you. Or you don’t do anything with it, that is also a choice.”
The words cling to us. The whole philosophy of how we work together and make decisions is inspired by them.
One example is that famous saying that you yourself inherited from your third grandfather Herman Teirlinck... “ ‘Yes, but’ is not an answer.” If we don't agree, we go and sit at the table until we come up with a solution. The line has to be drawn clearly, by no means wishy-washy. No matter how long it takes to talk things over, we stay put.
Thank you for your everlasting belief in the tradition of lambic and geuze.
It has not been easy, in a period when the interest in lambic and geuze was at its absolute low, to continue the craft of blending. And then, a little later, to start brewing as well. Against the current and against better judgement, supported only by some of your closest friends, with all the difficulties that your choices entailed. And yet you carried on, with the passion and perseverance that were entirely your own.
To us, you remain the greatest instigator of the traditional and authentic values of lambic and geuze. And you have inspired and further galvanised many people—just think of the many 3 Fonteinen fans, lambic and beer aficionados, but also a new generation of brewers, sommeliers and restaurateurs. Everyone has a story to tell about you, or has been inspired by your words, or by what 3 Fonteinen stands for: the craft, the passion and the true-blue stubborn way in which we deal with lambic.
Thank you for giving a future to 3 Fonteinen.
It goes without saying that 3 Fonteinen still exists today thanks to you.
The way in which you, with such an open mind, have ensured the succession of Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen to the next generation, remains exemplary. When you hired Michael as your right-hand man in 2010, you quickly saw the younger version of yourself in him: driven, passionate and with pronounced love for the craft behind our lambic beers.
From late 2013, when we were drawing the outlines of the future plans together—which we did on Sundays because it was a bit more quiet then—we remember a beautiful morning. Unexpectedly for us, but perhaps not so coincidentally, you happened to pass by. Just before you closed the door behind you, you turned around to say: “I like what I see going on here.” We often think back to that moment, goose bumps and all. It will be forever engraved in our memories.
You have been the perfect mentor: with a gentle guiding hand, strict when necessary, but with all due respect and support for the people you worked with. And always full of confidence in those people and in what was to come. That is why you continue to command so much respect. The spirit of 3 Fonteinen, its values and character, its aroma and taste: everything that was so dear to you, could not be handed down to the next generation in a better way.
Although we are not family, you will always be our pater familias. The father of a whole team. And doesn’t that come very near to a family? By the way, we are also very happy that some of the brewers’ children were baptised by you—in the appropriate lambic manner—and can continue to call you Opa Geuze.
Truly, 3 Fonteinen is and will always be a family business. Of many families, but united by the same values. And even if you often used to work alone in the old days, today Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen has become a full movement of equally passionate people. We see it as no less than a privilege to be able to continue your project. Just think of our Cereal Collective, of the Schaarbeek sour cherries and how we collaborate with fruit growers, of the freedom we give ourselves to try new things, and so on.
Armand, that is why you will always belong to 3 Fonteinen and 3 Fonteinen will always belong to you.
And as you always ended your stories and writings, so we end our letter in the same beautiful way...
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.